A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Gustavo Dudamel

Oh My GustavO Dudamel!

Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil’s music director designate, is the talk of the classical world right now. It’s easy to understand why, not only when you watch him conduct an orchestra with unbridled passion, but also when you hear his ideas about the power of classical music to change lives.

At a press conference announcing the LA Phil’s 2009/10 season yesterday at Disney Hall, President Deborah Borda compared Dudamel’s vision to Barack Obama’s: It focuses most of all on hope. The 27-year-old conductor has already started YOLA, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, based on “el Sistema” in his native Venezuela, a program that provides free music lessons to 250,000 children whose alternatives are often crime and drugs in the poor, violent neighborhoods of that country.

When Dudamel speaks about music changing kids’ lives, improving the world, and offering peace and hope, he’s speaking from experience. He told “60 Minutes” that: “The music saved me. I’m sure of this. With all these bad things around you, you are exposed to these things, very close. The music give me a way to be far of these things.”

Dudamel started music lessons at 4 (he plays violin) and was appointed music director of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 1999. He sees YOLA, like “el Sistema,” as a model for the rest of the world. Composer John Adams, who was appointed Creative Chair of the Phil and joined Dudamel and Borda onstage, commented that young people in Caracas actually think classical music is cool. Dudamel could be our great hope of changing perceptions here.

Also part of his goal as music director is to make concerts more accessible to the community at large. Dudamel’s first concert on Oct. 3, 2009, at the Hollywood Bowl will feature Beethoven’s Ninth — and be free to the public. For a sneak peek at next season, visit www.laphil.com.